What do you think of when you think of surrealism?
Perhaps a lobster on a telephone? A talking milkshake?
Yes, the irrational juxtaposition of seemingly disparate things is at the heart of this 20th century artistic movement, and we are awash in it every day, whether we wish it or not.
René Magritte was one the movement's most well-known disciples and "Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938" now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago brings together some of his most well-known works for curious Chicagoans and others visiting from near and far.
The first item here is quite striking. Come close to look at what appears to be a death mask, covered with clouds and a robin's egg blue sky. Magritte called it "The Future of Statues," but perhaps you can think of another title, no? In the spirit of surrealism, as you wander the gallery, perhaps you, your children, and your companions will come up with other names for his works. It will make your visit that much more interesting.
As you walk through the exhibit, you'll find more than 100 collages, drawings and objects that trace Magritte's journey as an artist. He sought to make "everyday objects shriek aloud" and you'll find that the text that accompanies each item provides context and details that are most wonderful.
Near the end of the exhibit, you will come face to face with his "Youth Illustrated," which originally was installed in the home of Edward James, who happened to be one of Magritte's patrons. Once again, move in closely and take a look at the items along the path in this painting and ask, "Youth, how would I illustrate you?"
Entering the gift shop, visitors will find a selection of well-curated gifts, including decorative phone covers, postcards, and books with fine mechanical reproductions between their pages. And oh yes: they have fine pipes for sale.
All told, the Magritte exhibition is a lovely invitation to conversation about the world of surrealism and it is on view at the Art Institute until October 13. Particulars about visiting the exhibit can be found here.
Also, there's a lecture on surrealism in Chicago on September 10th at the Art Institute and it promises to be as engaging as this marvelous exhibit. Interested parties can learn more about this presentation here.
Photos Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago; Max Grinnell